Arriving on 11-M – Spain’s worst terrorist attack (latest at time of writing) – meant something of a shadow was cast over this break. But at the same time it would be dishonest not to admit that events added some character of sorts to the holiday.
The whole country had gone into shock and mourning as casualty figures crept ever higher during the day and almost everyone wore a black ribbon. At this stage the finger of blame was pointing firmly at Eta, who had bombed trains in the past and early reports claimed their signature explosive was used. The soon to be outgoing prime minister, Jose Maria Aznar, called for mass demonstrations based on this assumption as he attempted to show leadership in the run up to elections that Sunday.
So Thursday evening’s relative quiet was to be short lived. By late Friday morning Plaça de Catalunya, the city’s main square, first played host to a sombre laying of candles. (As people applauded the tribute, confused pigeons flew in a rapid, swirl overhead as if they were doves of peace.)
And following that a demonstration that stopped the city.
It’s not clear from these photos, but there were plenty of anti-Eta banners in the crowd who at this point were aiming their protest at the Basque separatists – an enemy in their midst – rather than al-Qaeda. So close to the election, the government seemed desperate that the terrorists should be indigenous. But by Sunday the Islamists were looking ever more likely.
This was not the largest demonstration, which was to come in the evening.
Katharine and I had witnessed Spain’s popular anti-war movement a year earlier, demonstrating in Madrid itself. Now those who took to the streets then would say they were right all along and blame Aznar for placing Spain in the firing line. Of course, others now see the Spanish as appeasers.
Thankfully, my fear that they’d christen the day 3-11 wasn’t realised.